Want to save? The answer's pretty simple: spend less.
Of course, in reality, it's a bit harder than that, especially when Amazon's taking over the world and even Google is launching a "Buy Button." Our modern, consumerist society is geared to get your money - whether it's by encouraging a payday loan, or grabbing every last penny from your payslip. Here are some simple tips to take control of things:
- Think about something else. Take a cold, harsh look at your life. Do you spend your time buying things and talking about those things with your friends? Do you compete to have the most luxurious products? Are you secretly proud when you buy expensive things that you can show off? You're not alone, but this mindset is toxic. Find meaning elsewhere in your life. Talk about the things you've done, or heard about, or plan to do. Get a (not too expensive) hobby. Read a newspaper or book. Go for a walk. Stop letting consumerism take over your life. It will never satisfy you in the long term.
- Remove the temptation. No matter how much you try to change your way of thinking, you might find that the products come to you. Change your route home so that you don't go via the shops. Don't visit the Amazon webpage. Use online shopping for your food - you'll be surprised at how much extra stuff you don't throw in the trolley. Unfortunately, companies can get in your head without you stepping foot on their premises, so also think about how to cut out their marketing from your life. Use ad-blocker software online and record your favourite shows on TV so you can fast-forward through the adverts.
- Cut out impulse spending. If the shiny still finds a way to cross your path, set yourself a rule that you must think about potential purchases for at least one week before you buy it. If you still want it a week later and you have the funds available, then you're allowed. But if you don't care... let it go. You'll be surprised at how many things you don't even notice you've forgotten about.
- Automate your savings. Choose an initial target to get you started - it may be £20/week or £200/week, the amount doesn't matter - and set up a standing order to move it out of your bank account the moment you get paid. Never, ever wait until the end of the money to move the leftover money - it's too easy to spend it that way. Instead, open a Regular Saver (First Direct offers 6% interest for their customers and lots of other banks have similar rates) and put the money in there on Day 1. It'll be locked away for a year, so it's safe, and it'll earn interest while it sits. Win-win!
- Set a goal. Everyone needs a little motivation, and you're no different. Why do you want to save? Some people are saving for a big purchase, like a car or a house, which are good enough reasons, but I'd like to give you one more. You're saving because this increases your assets. The more assets you have, the more money you can generate - without having to work. If you saved £200/month in that 6% regular saver, you would generate ~£72 of interest without paying a penny. The year after, that same lump sum would generate £123 in a normal 5% current account. That's my goal: early retirement, because I've built my assets up to a point where they generate the income I need.
This is how the rich get richer. They look after their pennies. This is where the term "old money" comes from - you live off the income, and leave the capital untouched. But it's not a concept just for the rich. Learn to do these things, and you could be joining them sooner than you think.